Ben Gibson to Burnley – a tale of two clubs

When Sean Dyche took over at Burnley, Tony Mowbray’s Boro were 3rd in the Championship while Burnley were way back in 14th place. By the end of that season, Burnley would finish in the top half, above a free falling Boro.

Prior to that season, neither team had much to sing about.

Burnley had briefly flirted with the Premier League the season after Boro had been relegated, but either side of that were pretty ordinary.

They had even sent time in the third tier while Boro’s Riverside Revolution was building up steam.

For Boro, meanwhile, the glory days were well and truly over and they had failed to finish higher than 7th in the Championship since being relegated four years earlier.

These were seemingly two middling Championship sides with little prospect.

But Dyche’s appointment sparked an unlikely rivalry both on and off the pitch over the next six  years.

He had personal history with Boro, having been part of the Chesterfield side who were cruelly beaten in the FA Cup semi-final in 1997.

Perhaps Dyche was still bitter about that goal not being given, because he always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder when it came to Boro.

Words were constantly being exchanged between Dyche and his counterpart Aitor Karanka.

The narrative was clear – Boro were the big-spending, continental side with Premier League pedigree while little old Burnley were the perennial underdogs punching above their weight.

Every Burnley victory was celebrated as a massive overachievement, every Boro win dismissed as par for the course.

Annoyingly, during that period Boro sometimes won the battle but never the war.

In Dyche’s first full season Boro did the double over Burnley, but the Clarets were promoted while Boro floundered in mid-table.

They beat us to the Championship title in 2015-16 and stayed up comfortably the following season, while Boro went down with a whimper.

To rub salt into the wounds, last season Burnley enjoyed their best ever Premier League finish and even qualified for the Europa League.

Meanwhile Boro, who again had been criticised by Dyche for spending £15m on Assombalonga, stumbled into the play-offs and fell meekly at the first hurdle.

Despite all the evidence, many Boro fans would have struggled to accept Burnley as a bigger and more successful team.

However, perhaps the Ben Gibson transfer will change all that.

For the last couple of years we’ve seen spurious links to Spurs, Liverpool, and Everton. Some fans even claimed that well-established sides like Southampton, Leicester and West Brom wouldn’t have been enough of a step up for Gibson.

So for him to move to our ‘arch rivals’ hurts a lot.

For Boro to have to sell a prized asset to a team who not long ago were our equals, and not long before that were well below us in the pecking order, is a blow to the ego.

Along with Traore’s move to Wolves, this was a stark realisation of where Boro stand, as well as what could have been with better management.

So what next for Boro? Can they follow Burnley’s lead?

Instead of trying to chase big names with big money, perhaps they can bring in players who are dedicated to the cause and will work together as a team.

Instead of scrapping everything and starting again every few months, perhaps the club can invest time in a manager and squad for a few seasons.

At least in Pulis we currently have a manager willing to work with what he’s got. He may have been frustrated, along with many Boro fans, at the lack of transfer activity in the summer, but so far it has been a blessing in disguise.

Youngsters and forgotten men have risen to the occasion and so far Boro are reaping the rewards of a settled team.

Instead of trying to buy the league, maybe now is the time for Boro to work and fight their way out of the league. Just like Cardiff did last season and Burnley did back in 2016.

Maybe then we can take back the bragging rights – and Ben Gibson.

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